I want to first share about the Program of Change. 35 women and men have worked together in this program. This program was created to address the harsh reality that addictions are the primary roadblock to maintaining proper drug protocols for HIV medications. The residents of Las Memorias have access to anti-retroviral medication. The problem when living in addiction, the addiction rules and health suffers.
What a joy it has been to participate in graduation festivities for 3 different classes. Surprise shows up in moments of clarity: the cost of addiction; decisions to change; supporting others; the pride of completing a course in recovery. This course prepares individuals to actually do the work for each of the 12 steps in the NA/AA. The program provides drug testing which provides a letter stating they are negative (meaning no drugs in their system). What an amazing journey to share these moments of clarity and negative drug test results.
By far the most exciting accomplishment has been two of the members stepping up to lead a reading group. While I was away for vacation, Juan Carlos and Martha have been working together reading the Big Book (AA/NA) to others who have difficulty reading. This is in preparation for the fourth class starting in late February which they will be teaching. I thank God for the commitments they have made.
I also am thankful to Vista La Mesa Christian Church and RJ who have faithfully provided books/tokens and other support for this group. El Programa de Cambio welcomes your support through prayers and words of encouragement. God is at work here.
HIV- Baby born to HIV+ Mom living at Albergue Las Memorias A.C.
HIV+ moms have babies who are also HIV+. At birth, babies are given daily meds for a month and by the time they are 1 year they test negative. So, this little girl was HIV- at birth. That has been celebrated at Las Memorias as well as in the medical community in Tijuana. Thanks be to God!
UCC churches visit
When planning a personal visit or a group visit to a mission partner, may I suggest a visit with a focus on connection along with, or instead of, a focus on construction. I encourage you to always check with the Global Ministries People-to-People Pilgrimage program as you plan; create your visit to meet needs where you visit.
Groups from Tehachapi to Orange, CA come regularly to visit. They have a plan to touch the untouchable/ostracized residents of Albergue Las Memorias A.C. through activities like running a nail salon, giving facials, playing BINGO, board and card games, sharing desserts, all set and ready to build high contact. There are so many ways to build a mission partner visit. Residents talk about the people who and touch them, how meaningful it was and always end with, “When are they returning?” God is present and active, the spirit moves residents and visitors alike. Gracias a Dios.
The WALL as it is now
To speak of the wall as if it were a singular wall is not doing the border justice. There are three different walls or barriers. One on the actual border, and two others on either side of the border. There is space in-between the walls/fences for the border patrol of both countries to monitor these man-made barriers. On two separate occasions I took a carload of residents to the wall. We stopped at several locations along the wall to talk and take photos. First, we stopped at the wall of memories…wooden crosses tacked to the thin metal wall marking the Mexican side. This is close to the airport. Each cross bares a name, age, and state of origin. They hold space for those who have tried to escape the poverty and oppression present in Mexico, they wanted a better life. They never made it to their destination in the USA. They died or were killed as they were on the way to the hope of new life. I know there are differing opinions about aliens entering the USA but please, take a moment to recognize the more than 5,000 crosses bearing witness to lives lost in the pursuit of a safer, better life.
We stopped at a border patrol gate, a place to access the in-between spaces. It was a bit scary standing there, cameras guarding the passageway. These guys peered into the space they could never walk. They spoke of sensors, lights and patrols with ATVs as great barriers to entering that space. Without incident, we continued our journey to the playa…(beach).
At the beach, there are places where the USA side and the Mexican Side are close. At another time when I was at the wall I saw a woman unfolding a chair right next to the fence. I asked if she was meeting someone. In just a few moments her beloved came from the other side, set his chair then, before he sat, she stood and pressed her lips to the fence. He kissed his wife through the metal fence, and for a brief moment, the wall could not divide their love. She had been deported and this is where they had their weekly date. I did not photograph this rendezvous, nor did I linger to listen to the conversation. This was their private moment.
The wall ends abruptly a few yards into the Pacific Ocean. The lights, sensors in the ground and threat of the ever present guards on ATVs are enough to stop anyone from simply swimming to the end and walking around to the other side.
Jerri L. Handy serves as a Long-term Volunteer with Las Memorias Mission, Nogales, Mexico. Her appointment is made possible by your gifts to Disciples Mission Fund, Our Church’s Wider Mission, and your special gifts.